Thursday, April 18, 2013

Food Freedom

You might say that they’re keeping the “Maine” thing the main thing. More specifically, Sedgwick, Maine, is the first town in Maine—and perhaps the nation—to vote unanimously to adopt the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance, which exempts direct farm sales from state and federal licensing and inspection.

That is a significant accomplishment, too, and could readily set the precedent for other towns wanting to preserve small-scale farming and food processing. In fact, other towns are in the process of following suit, particularly three other towns in the same Maine county—namely Penobscot, Brooksville, and Blue Hill—have already voted on, or will be voting on, the ordinance at or prior to their town meetings. That same ordinance also exempts foods made in the home kitchen. They will be free to buy and sell as well.
Perhaps Mia Strong, a resident of Sedgwick who buys from local farmers says it best:  “I am so proud of my community. They made a stand for local food and our fundamental rights as citizens to choose that food.”

Reports say that town has passed an ordinance that gives its citizens the right to “produce, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing.” In short, Sedgwick, Maine, put a stake in the ground, saying that their community has the freedom to buy and sell local food as they see fit. The ordinance includes raw milk, meats slaughtered locally, all produce and nearly everything else you can think of.

Local farmer Bob St. Peter serves on the board of the National Family Farm Coalition, which is based in Washington, D.C. He views the town of Sedgwick as a model for economic development in rural areas. He observes, “It’s tough making a go of it in rural America. Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing foodborne illness, not us.”

St. Peter bottom lines it: “And every dollar that leaves our community is one more dollar we don’t have to pay for our rural schools or to provide decent care for our elders. We need the money more than corporate agribusiness.”

Hopefully, this is food freedom trend that will sweep our nation. We may be on the brink of a positive food revolution—and Maine is helping to lead the way by taking back their rights to buy and sell foods as they wish, without state or federal interference.

In fact, the proposed warrant added, “It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.”

That’s a pretty clear statement, if you ask me. Food freedom may be on the way.